This is a historic time in Hamilton.
On the Nov. 5 ballot, the two party-affiliated candidates for township mayor are women. The incumbent, Republican Kelly Yaede, is the first female mayor of Hamilton. Democratic challenger Barbara Plumeri is the second woman to represent her party in as many mayoral races. Should either of them win on Election Day, she would be the first woman elected mayor in township history. (Yaede ascended to the position last Nov. 30 via appointment by township council.)
With this as a backdrop, I set out to conduct my annual exercise in bringing representative government to a group of local Kindergartners. The candidates? A bunch of turkeys.
Hamilton Post staffers once again traced their hands, and turned the shape into turkeys so varied, many of them were hardly turkeys. The 3rd annual Adult Handturkey Drawing Contest had a record 10 entries, ranging from a fire-breathing dragon turkey to a distinctly non-turkey illustration based on the smartphone video game “Subway Surfers.”
A group of 34 Kindergartners judged each drawing’s merits, and each student voted for one turkey. As the Oct. 11 judging progressed, it made clear that current events in the township had somehow filtered their way to the 5-year-old students.
Not only did they (kinda) know what voting is—“Voting is like when you go to vote for mayor”—but they seemed to have a sense at the movement happening in the community.
Last year, the power of a populist candidate overwhelmed the competition. A depiction of Perry the Platypus from Disney Channel cartoon Phineas and Ferb won the 2012 election by a wide margin. This year, though, a similar Phineas and Ferb turkey didn’t.
Instead, a colorful drawing the class dubbed “the Princess Turkey” ran away with the election. Not that there’s such thing as a “girl” handturkey or “boy” handturkey, but the girls in the group clearly favored the Princess. All but one or two girls voted elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the boys scattered their votes to a variety of clever pieces. They mostly voted for a turkey that featured Minions—round, yellow creatures wearing denim overalls—from the animated movie “Despicable Me.” The Minion Turkey finished second, followed by a third-place tie between a turkey where each feather was a different superhero and one that included Snoopy and Woodstock from the Peanuts comic strip.
But, with the girls’ voting bloc so strong—and the group represented evenly by gender—whatever the girls said, went.
So, why exactly did the girls bond together to select the Princess handturkey?
“It has a tiara,” one said. “I also like the pretty colors.”
“The lipstick!” one shouted.
“The dress!” another said.
“The necklace, and the whole entire thing,” a fourth girl said, thereby exhausting all possible attributes of the Princess to compliment.
As this critique occurred, a boy walked up to me to share a story involving Minions and bananas. I sadly could not decipher any more of what he said, but I am really interested to know a cartoon character and a piece of oblong fruit somehow go together. The possibilities are endless, I suppose.
Later, another boy repeated “Guess what the Minions say?” several times, but to my knowledge never revealed what the Minions actually say.
At that point, a preschool class arrived to take a look at the turkeys. The youngsters were less definitive than the Kindgergarteners, but they were no less progressive. Indeed, one boy in the class voted for the Princess Turkey, although he may have been confused, calling it the “Peacock Turkey.”
In the end, the Princess/Peacock Turkey and the Minion Turkey shared top honors with the preschool class. The younger Princess supporters were less verbose about why they picked what they picked than the Kindergartners. They mostly gasped and covered their mouths to block silent screams, like The Beatles had just entered Shea Stadium if Shea Stadium was a library.
The Minions, on the other hand, received support that included words.
“I know what that is!” one boy said excitedly. “It’s, it’s A-spicable Me!” (Later that day, a member of the sales staff at the Post called the movie “Invincible Me.” The preschooler was closer.)
Alas, the preschool support wasn’t enough for the poor Minions to make up ground on the rainbow-hued Princess, and the Princess Turkey secured its place as the winner of the 2013 Adult Handturkey Contest.
Assistant community editor Lexie Yearly was the creative mind behind the Princess Turkey, and she had supreme confidence in her entry. She greeted the news of her win with a simple, “Yes!”
Upon hearing the feedback from the Kindergartners, she just nodded her head.
“That’s what I was going for, ” Yearly said, as unsurprisingly as one could say something. She had planned it all.
Yearly later announced she probably would not enter next year’s contest—she had won a handturkey contest, and crossed an item off her bucket list.
It’d be a real shame if she stepped away, though. What this contest needs more than ever is people like Yearly. A person smart enough to develop a plan, passionate enough to follow it through and daring enough to give the voters something new.
That is, not another turkey full of stuffing. We already have too many of those.
Rob Anthes is senior community editor of the Hamilton Post. Connect with him at facebook.com/robanthes.